Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Google Chrome 11 with voice search!

There is a hidden new feature in Chrome 11: Speech input that is integrated in web pages in a similar way as you would use your Android phone. It’s not perfect yet, but the recognition rate of spoken words is impressive. Is Google planning a release of Chrome for Android?

Google published a new beta release of its Chrome browser, which updates the browser to version 11.0.696.16. However, it’s not the new Chrome icon and it’s not the GPU-accelerated 3D CSS that makes this release special. It is the integration of the HTML5 speech input API.

It is a Google-proprietary feature at this time, which has been submitted to the W3C (thanks to the guys over at c’t for finding this submission) with the request to turn the technology into a specification as part of the HTML5 framework. There is a basic demo Google has set up to demonstrate the speech recognition engine, which works just like Google’s Android speech recognition integration: The speech-to-text translation rate is impressive, as long as there is clear speech input. What would be nice is if this engine could detect different languages automatically. At this time, the feature only works in the language of the web browser version.
So, input in German in an English version of Chrome results in garbage, as shown above.
Would this be a feature that is enhancing the feature set of Chrome? I am not so sure, as you have to click on the microphone icon to start the speech input anyway and writing your search phrase will be much faster (especially when combined with instant search) than waiting for the speech engine to translate your voice input. However, it could make sense for tablets (and smartphones) where typing is still a bit slower than on a regular keyboard. The problem is that there is no Chrome browser on tablets and smartphones – yet.

Since Google has been working on a touch interface for Chrome recently, and since we are now seeing voice input and we have heard about a possible elimination of the URL bar (which could work very well in tandem with voice search input), we’d be tempted to predict the release of a Chrome browser for Android in the near future.

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